21 January 2023

Israelis press on with protests against new government

21 January 2023

Tens of thousands of Israelis have gathered in Tel Aviv to protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government to overhaul the judicial system, measures that opponents say imperil the country’s democratic fundamentals.

Israeli media, citing police, said some 100,000 people were out protesting.

The protest followed another demonstration last week that also drew tens of thousands in an early challenge to Mr Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox government – the most right-wing in Israeli history.

The government says a power imbalance has given judges and government legal advisers too much sway over lawmaking and governance.

Mr Netanyahu has pledged to press on with the changes despite the opposition.

Protesters filled central streets in the seaside metropolis, raising Israeli flags and banners that read “The Supreme Court” and “Israel, We Have A Problem.”

“All generations are concerned. This is not a joke,” said Lior Student, a protester.

“This is a complete redefinition of democracy.”

Other protests took place in the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba.

In addition to the protests, pressure has built up on Mr Netanyahu’s government after the country’s attorney general asked Mr Netanyahu to fire a key cabinet ally following a Supreme Court ruling that disqualified him from holding a government post because of a conviction of tax offences.

While Mr Netanyahu was expected to heed the court ruling, it only deepened the rift in the country over the judicial system and the power of the courts.

Earlier this week, Mr Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, vowed to continue with the judicial overhaul plans despite the protests.

Opponents say the changes could help Mr Netanyahu evade conviction in his corruption trial, or make the court case disappear altogether.

One protester said she thinks the judicial changes are meant to protect Mr Netanyahu: “The aim is to save only one person and one only – this is Mr Netanyahu, from his trial, and that’s why I’m here.”

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